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Hi-tech war on Talent

Hi-tech war on Talent


Used with permission of the author:
Author: Robert Ridout
The Ridout Group  www.ridout.co.za 
15 November 2007


The message that South Africa’s talent scarcity has unique challenges in the market place, seems not to have hit home yet.


The ongoing shortage of talent and skills in South Africa remains a hot topic in our press. 

Not a week goes by where either a top government official or business executive reinforces this highly debated topic. What is the solution and can technology help to solve this problem?

The external recruiter and company human resources manager, with the legislator, now faces more pressure to innovate and ensure that talent is located through whatever means necessary. The solution is no longer to apply more pressure on the recruiter to find scarce talent. Technology seems to possibly hold the key to this problem. 

Are these recruiters and human resource managers however thinking creatively enough to ensure technology has a place in this toolbox of solutions?

The stakeholders that come face to face with these possible hi-tech solutions seem to struggle to come to terms with the responsibility placed on them to work together to identify new avenues of successful technology development.

The message that South Africa’s talent scarcity has unique challenges in the market place, seems not to have hit home yet. 

Can business afford to wait for government to solve this problem? I think not.

By far the largest impact felt on the war for talent in South Africa, besides the introduction of affirmative action, has been the advent of e-recruitment. How many of us today have our details floating around on the World Wide Web promoting our availability to companies and recruiters. E-recruitment technology has already started to shape our lives.

With the introduction of improved communications infrastructure in South Africa, candidate’s details have become more accessible to the recruiter. But are we working to improve this technology on an ongoing basis?

Most stakeholders remain obstinate in sticking to traditional sourcing techniques, rather pushing the responsibility onto somebody else instead of think out the box.

A more pragmatic business approach is needed by both parties to ensure long term technology successes.

The talent industry has become an industry within itself, with participants that are reluctant stakeholders.

I recently read a letter from an owner of a leading e-recruitment technology company in which he slated an emerging competitor for trying to introduce a similar product. This type of negative PR only does disservice to companies trying to produce new technology into the market and is a good example of how participants still fail to work together to a common cause.

To understand the emergence of these hi-tech tools I have sub-divided the technology into two main areas: 

  • the e-recruitment website used by recruiters and 
  • the outsourced internal database tool for both recruiter and company.

The greatest and most prominent technology tool in use at the moment is by far the e-recruitment website.

These online recruitment products focus on attracting large amounts of general candidates to a central point where numerous roles are advertised on behalf of recruiters. The immediate benefit is therefore carried over to the recruiter and not companies themselves. Positions displayed are also focused on lower level generalist roles, thereby not providing specific opportunities for more senior executives and specialists.

This market remains dominated by one or two major players and is a very difficult segment to penetrate as the marketing and branding of these offerings is an expensive affair. The downside of this is that a lot of web based products are not being vetted by the people who will make the most use of them – recruiters.

The positive side to this hi-tech tool is that candidates are starting to make use of these web sites with a greater proficiency when applying for jobs, and therefore becoming better at managing their details, recruiters and applications.

The outsourced internal database tool for both recruiter and company isthe second type of hi-tech tool in use and is a new entity in South Africa. 

Over the past year or so several businesses within our borders have started emerging as strong players in this market.

There are however several variations of this kind of technology offering. The main two being:

  • companies that specialize in designing databases for recruitment companies, and
  • larger companies that require an outsourced database and workflow tool to manage internal recruitment processes, candidates’ applications with the aim of saving money for the business.

Companies that specialize in designing databases for recruitment companies normally offer online type databases and serve mainly to increase the recruiters’ billings through faster accessibility to information. The format is normally that of a CRM (Centralised Resource Management) type of package.

The second variation is being offered to larger companies that require an outsourced database and workflow tool to manage internal recruitment processes, candidates’ applications with the aim of saving money for the business.

The later solution is by far the technology that is worldwide showing greater opportunity right now for businesses and candidates alike. In the United Kingdom and USA this market is at a very advanced stage and stakeholders have access to variety of differing products with competitive pricing which makes the solution more available and affordable.

This is in partly due to the advanced stage of communications infrastructure in those countries and also the willingness of participants in the market to think out the box. 

This type of software is integrated and designed around a single technology platform into businesses, usually introduced through a project type methodology applied by a project manager. These solutions normally have built-in automated functionalities that aid the recruiter and job seeker alike, ultimately saving time and energy.

The overall goal is often to attract as many candidates to roles within the company and coordinate their candidacy in a way that is cost effective for the organization. The aim being to replace in some way or form the cost of an external recruiter.

Unfortunately not enough South African products have yet been developed by recruiters to ensure that the South African marketing keeps up with the international technology mainstream, creating gaps between what companies need and the practical elements of the talent acquisition problem.

These hi-tech weapons will need to ensure that the recruiter’s relationship with companies remains one of co-dependency, not one of complete outsourcing, as the recruiter is and will always be a necessary business partner.

So how do we ensure that these forms of hi-tech tools become more widely used and grow from strength to strength? CO-OPERATION I say….

Unfortunately recruiters, HR practitioners and technology vendors still see each other as direct competition. The recruiter will always see the technology vendor taking business away from them whilst the HR manager is always after the most cost effective manner to achieve goals, and that is with little or no placement costs.

These stakeholders need to put their strategic differences aside and start coordinating their efforts in a more strategic fashion.

The only way that the candidate will ultimately benefit from this increased technology will be if these parties work together to understand the successes and failures of using these hi-tech tools in the practical work place. Thereby developing a greater understanding of the overall requirement that is needed to arm the man in street with the best technology available.

South Africa has a unique set of challenges that require a unique set of solutions and this is once again where the opportunity is to be found – COMPETITIVE CO-OPERATION.

Born in Cape Town 1972, Robert Ridout began his recruitment career in the fast paced medical recruitment industry in London after study a diploma in Marketing Management.  After returning to South Africa Robert joined Don Gray in Cape Town as search consultant. Thereafter Renwick International approached him to start a Search Business called Speedsearch and after relocating to Johannesburg Robert grew the business to a competitive force in Johannesburg.  Whilst with Renwick Robert was involved on various projects in web recruitment and recruitment software. Robert then joined Paracon and managed a team of project mangers before returning to Cape Town to start a search business for the Laser Group. In 2001 Robert finally decided to start Ridout and Associates his own search consultancy. Working from home the business grew into offices in Claremont to eventually open its doors in Johannesburg in 2005. With over twenty staff strong at the moment Robert continues to lead the business as CEO with his capable team of executives. Robert has dedicated his career to the advancement of Search in South Africa promoting this specialist form of recruitment as the preferred form of talent acquisition. The Ridout Group is testament to the passion that he has for his trade. 

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Gary Watkins

Gary Watkins

Managing Director


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